Queensland's removal of sugary drinks from hospitals just what the doctor ordered

With Queensland removing sugary drinks from its hospitals and health services from today, the 19 leading health and community organisations behind Rethink Sugary Drink have applauded the Queensland State Government’s commitment to putting health before profits.

The directive, led by the Queensland Government, follows an announcement earlier this year to ban unhealthy food and drink promotions on all Government-owned advertising spaces.

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, a partner of Rethink Sugary Drink, said sugary drinks have no place in hospitals and health services and called on other Australian states to follow Queensland’s example by providing healthier environments for patients, visitors and staff.

“Sugary drinks, like sports drinks, soft drinks and energy drinks, are a contributor to tooth decay, weight gain, obesity, and serious long-term health problems, but ironically they are readily available in our hospitals and health facilities,” Ms Martin said.

At a time when more than 12.5 million Australians are overweight or obese [1], hospitals and health services are treating increasing numbers of patients with weight-related chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancers.

“Sugary drinks are the largest contributor of added sugar in Australians’ diets. It makes no sense for these beverages to be available in settings designed to treat people who are unwell or recovering from surgery. Nor does it send the right message to visitors, who are often the primary audience for these unhealthy drinks.”  

“It’s fantastic to see Queensland’s health services creating healthier environments for patients, staff and visitors. Given the health effects of these drinks, we are urging other states and territories to follow suit.”

The Queensland Government’s Healthier Drinks directive will see all unhealthy drinks that are classified in the state’s RED category removed from sale in the state’s hospitals and health services.

This will include all drinks with added sugar including soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks. The directive also states that artificially sweetened drinks and flavoured milks can only be sold in smaller serving sizes.

The directive stipulates that water should be promoted as the drink of choice, encouraging healthcare facilities to provide free drinking water.

Patients, staff and visitors will also have a variety of healthier drink options including hot drinks, sparkling waters and non-sugar sweetened varieties.  

The Rethink Sugary Drink alliance recommends the following actions to tackle sugary drink consumption:

  • A public education campaign supported by Australian governments to highlight the health impacts of regular sugary drink consumption.
  • Comprehensive mandatory restrictions by state governments on the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages (and increased availability of free water) in schools, government institutions, children's sports and places frequented by children.
  • Development of policies by state and local governments to reduce the availability of sugar sweetened beverages in workplaces, government institutions, health care settings, sport and recreation facilities and other public places.

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. 2018